Mark Mitchell


Beach House Forever

I know this woman and she talks about her man like he is behind her listening in. Repeatedly taking off her glasses and putting them back on is how she speaks in deliberate tones - it’s a loop - and as we eat a grave lunch I need to butter some bread to keep a sense of time; it’s the line of the horizon in a rocky conversation and I’m staving off sickness. You might taste the preservatives in deli butter when you talk about a whole history being fake, but the acute tragedy is this woman living without herself for almost all of her so-called ‘glory years’ and knowing where and when she was lost. Growing to believe it had all been a trap - “a language trap!” - inside the raw walls of her beach house.

She had led the guy there in summer because he looked good in bathers and looked good at her. They talked and trod water, but soon she had let down her guard enough to swim under the surface with him, messing with the idea of swallowing too much of the ocean, which came, when properly understood, with the percussion of a wake-up call. “Almost drowning is a slap in the face!”, she cried once back on the water line and he admitted later to writing her off as a woman “in the middle of her cycle.” Not her place to bitch because she hadn’t really listened to anything he said either. He talked about himself like he believed he suited the grand backdrop of dusk as she floated close to sinking on her back and let the water at her ears intermittently get rid of his words.

“Let’s go b--- -- the house,” he said. “-’ve had enough.”

Things then got weird, like they hadn’t been before, but now especially with him in her beach house, the closest thing to a map of herself. A week earlier she had read her own fortune in the spaces of her diary and saw him and his letters amounting only to sad arrangements of paper inside boxes she kept in the darker parts of the room, the boxes a colour easy to ignore. Even easier when you let two out of three lamps blow and don’t replace them. Don’t throw his letters away, you might need them, she wrote to herself. Of course I’ll never need them, but they’re important and I should let them be and think about what’s next. What was next was him moving about her beach house with the subtlety of left-over food, oblivious to the delicacy of the place, shifting objects that didn’t suit the style of his invasion. “You don’t own me,” she said, which came out: “make yourself at home!”

They made it to the couch on the porch and the choreography of the ocean egged them on. Make it special! This is an unspoiled stretch of coastline! The ocean was able to miniaturize her but tonight, unfortunately not. I am having sex was what was in her head as she held the explicit conclusion to their vague convergence out before her in real-time, with an upturned nose and only the very tips of her thumb and index finger. Fuck him, he’s smiling, she didn’t know why; maybe in the short-circuit of her eyes he thought he could see the mess that sometimes comes when the revolution hits, the kind of revolution he was after. They were spooned on the couch after the fact and she was hoping she wouldn’t audibly fart in her sleep as the soda they had drunk in a phony throw of caution to the wind was still processing in her stomach. Why did she mind if he heard her, unless she did still care in some way. Only about what I leave him with, ‘cause I don’t want him to think worse of me, I want to leave him with nothing.

Rearranging themselves on the couch he met her eyes pretty seriously and maybe had an inkling because he asked “is there something wrong, what’s wrong?” and that was it: her reply was “nothing” and she couldn’t help the sound of it, like there was stuff attached, stuff like FULFILLMENT. It sounded like “finally, yes!” “And I know it was a trap,” she tells me. “What were my options, what with the by-numbers beach setting and that type of temperature. I could have almost repeated ‘nothing’ in a softer voice it sounded that hokey.” She tells me that she had been fine, really just okay. To others and herself she could convincingly play someone who wasn’t haunted by themselves in the particular way that she was, and she had learned to automatically check in her baggage at any new turning point in her life. It was his problem to not take her literally, except it was her problem too. She tells me this now as she removes her glasses, puts them on, takes them off.



Mark Mitchell is a 26-year old English postgraduate student at the University of Adelaide. He is knee-deep in a cultural studies thesis examining how comics made the flip from trash to art in the sixties and seventies. Mark spends a lot of time recording and performing music under the name Clue to Kalo, and has been lucky enough to release records in the US, Europe, Japan, and Australia. You can find more of Mark’s writing on his website (